Adderall is a common treatment for ADHD and narcolepsy, but it has not been approved to treat depression or other mood disorders.
Depression affects millions of people globally. While many may seek treatment in the form of therapy or antidepressant medications, others continue to look for new ways to relieve and manage symptoms.
One treatment option that some people might consider is the stimulant drug Adderall.
Adderall is generally used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, but it has also been linked to depression — both as a potential treatment and a possible cause.
Adderall can create a euphoric or energetic feeling, which can mask the symptoms of depression. These effects are often short-lived, though, and likely won’t produce any long-term benefits.
In fact, experts caution against its use for depression, as Adderall may actually contribute to or worsen depressive symptoms over time.
Despite not being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mood disorders, Adderall is sometimes used as an “off-label” treatment for depression, specifically for those who also live with ADHD.
A study from 2016, however, states there’s not enough evidence to support using stimulants instead of antidepressants or therapy to treat depression.
Stimulants can create a euphoric “rush,” which is usually short-lived and only provides temporary relief without actually treating symptoms.
Evidence is also lacking on what types of depression might benefit from stimulant use.
While a 2017 review found that stimulants may be useful in treating major depressive disorder (MDD), a 2016 study found that they had no effect on generalized depression.
Adderall is a prescription medication that contains both amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It’s most often prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
Adderall works by increasing activity in your body’s central nervous system and boosting production of dopamine and norepinephrine. These naturally occurring brain chemicals help improve focus, expand attention span, and ease restlessness.
Adderall is taken orally and is available in two forms: a tablet and an extended-release capsule.
Adderall is most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.
According to a 2016 review,
In treating narcolepsy,
A word from the FDA
Adderall has been FDA approved to treat both ADHD and narcolepsy. It has not been approved as a treatment for depression or anxiety.
In fact, the FDA warns that Adderall may cause adverse effects for people with both ADHD and certain mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, depression, psychosis, or mania.
It’s a good idea to discuss your full physical and mental health history with a healthcare professional before considering Adderall as a treatment option.
Adderall can cause a variety of unwanted side effects. While the medication itself doesn’t cause depression, the side effects can make your depression symptoms worse.
Some common short-term side effects of Adderall include:
- nausea or stomach pain
- dry mouth
- shortness of breath
- trouble sleeping
- decreased appetite or weight loss
- skin rash
- swelling or itching skin
- rapid heart rate
These side effects can look different from person to person. Short-term side effects tend to go away on their own after a week or two.
In rare cases, Adderall can cause serious side effects, such as:
- symptoms of psychosis
Other serious side effects can include heart problems and changes in mood. After some time, these symptoms can go away, but if they persist, talk with a healthcare professional.
Using Adderall for long periods of time or misusing it can lead to dependence or addiction. Over time, your body may build up a tolerance and need higher or more frequent doses to get the same effects. The more time you’re on the medication, the more your body can become dependent on it.
If dependence develops, it’s likely that you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- trouble sleeping
- increased appetite
You can also temporarily experience symptoms of withdrawal when you suddenly stop taking Adderall. If you want to stop taking it, consider talking with a healthcare or mental health professional first.
Adderall is a safe and effective treatment for conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy. It’s also sometimes used as an off-label treatment for depression and anxiety.
However, Adderall has not been approved by the FDA to treat depression. Little evidence exists to suggest it can help reduce or eliminate depression symptoms.
If you are living with depression, consider speaking with a healthcare or mental health professional about treatment options. They can provide you with a diagnosis and work with you on a treatment plan, if needed.
A treatment plan can include participating in different types of therapy or taking antidepressant medications — which, unlike Adderall, are FDA approved (and often effective!) for use in depression treatment.